Mann Scholar Audra Cox Graduates from
ther University of Houston
A Profile of Courage and Determination
University of Houston Graduate Audra Cox
believe I would have achieved my educational dreams.”

What was it like to go from Work and Learn to MATC (Madison Area Technical College)?
“It was a huge culture shock for me. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I knew I was smart, but I was ill-prepared for the different challenges that
college would bring. My first semester at MATC, I was placed on academic probation. And I was at one of the most disappointing stages in my life. I realized I had a
decision to make: stay in school and continue to fail miserably or pursue a job and make some money to support myself. I chose the latter.”

How did your years in the workforce impact your future academics?
“They taught me to not do anything that you’re not passionate about. I wasted several years in an environment where I was stifled — making a lot of money, but feeling
miserable. Although I learned a lot about teamwork and dedication and pursuit of financial stability, I felt very unfulfilled. More than anything , my time spent in the
workforce taught me to never do anything too long that makes you too unhappy.”

What made you decide to return to school (UW-Platteville) after a hiatus of a number of years?
“While all of my friends and classmates were graduating from college, pursuing secondary degrees, and having families of their own, I yearned and craved for the
‘college experience.’ I knew not to compare myself to others because everyone has different paths; however it was still something that created a lot of jealousy and
insecurity for me. More importantly, my goals had changed from focusing on ‘I,’ to moving towards ‘us.’ I was constantly asking myself, ‘What can you do to make a
change?’

What were the highlights of your years at UW-Platteville? At Houston?
“The number one highlight as an undergrad was traveling abroad — it was life-changing for me. Travel changed who I was as a person and created an insatiable
desire to explore the world as often as I can.
Another highlight was working as the student senate director of diversity and inclusivity, where I was able to create a more collaborative environment among
students of color, the predominantly white student body, and local law enforcement. My work led to me receiving the Chief’s Certificate of Commendation from the UW-
Platteville chief of police and contributed to me being honored as ‘UW-Platteville Student Woman of the Year’.
At the University of Houston, it was really rewarding to create a wellness fair for residents in Houston’s Third Ward community. It was an opportunity to provide free
services to those without easy access to needed resources.”

Why did you choose social work as a major?
“I honestly feel like social work chose me. I was a foster kid, I was a victim of sexual abuse, I have been a victim of domestic abuse, I have been sexually
assaulted, I have been marginalized, I have been discriminated against, I have been labeled, I have been bullied, I have bullied, I have been hurt, and I have hurt. I
wanted to understand intersectionality and why I responded the way that I did in certain situations. I wanted to do the work on myself so that I could be able to help
others. It was going through all of these different situations and working through it all, which made me want to change the way that my siblings, family members, and
community experience life moving forward.  I never want another child to experience the things that I did. I wanted to be able to inspire others to empower and
advocate for themselves.

I am now an avid advocate for mental health and mental health services. To students out there going through certain hardships, I would recommend that they seek
out additional assistance so as not to feel burdened or go through something alone.”

What are you aiming for now?
“I want to be a mentor for women who come from similar life circumstances as I do. I also want to start a scholarship fund at each of my alma maters to assist these
women. I think it is important to not just get to where you think you want to be in life, but to also bring others with you as well — that’s how ultimately I can be the
most impactful.

Whether it be personally or professionally I don’t want to waste time on things that do not fulfill me. I want to continue to make positive impacts on the people that I
encounter. My goal is to make everyone I come in contact with feel special, wanted, appreciated, and cared about.”
By Kathy Price

Audera Cox is a former Memorial High School Mann Scholar who graduated from Work and Learn in 2006. As
a newly minted social worker, she reflected on the trajectory that culminated in receiving her master’s
degree from the University of Houston on May 10th.

What were your dreams and goals when you were in middle and high school?
“In middle and high school, I had so many dreams and goals — become a famous singer, write a book and be
a world-renowned journalist, be a back-up dancer for Destiny’s Child, a lawyer, president. I had to really
focus on what was attainable and realistic for me. I realized in high school that all of these things had one
thing in common: the will to be successful, impactful and change my circumstances.”

What was your experience like at Work and Learn?
“Work and Learn was important for me — it was a second chance at getting a high school diploma and a time
to cultivate my creativity at a pace that was slower than a traditional high school. I needed that. There were
several adult situations that were realities for me and I was still a child. My school counselors weren’t
equipped for that. My teachers at Work and Learn were. I needed work ethic and responsibility instilled in me
and I don’t think I could have gotten that from a traditional school.
Another huge part of my success as a student was being a part of the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund
program, which provided mentorship and financial assistance. Most importantly, while in this program I was
able to garner support and confidence in my talents and abilities as a student. Without this support, I don’t